Monday, May 9, 2011

Plot: Rivalry

Today we continue our plot series with rivalry.

Quote: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? No question captures the spirit of a plot better than this one. -Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots and how to build them.

We all know competitors in one form or another. We may be a competitor. Our society admires this trait especially in sports and politics. I must confess nothing turns me off more than a sibling or associate trying to prove they are better than me. I think a persons worth is defined by their moral standard, not just by their accomplishments or wealth. This however, is real life. The rivalry we are discussing today is in our stories.

What is rivalry?

A rival is a person who disputes the prominence or superiority of another. -Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots and how to build them.

Once again you have three acts. The first act is setting the scene. The protagonist and antagonist are nearly equals in abilities. They will have some quirks to make them unique. They know each other. Often they have competitive natures, but not always. Some famous rivalries include:
1. A man and animal: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
2. God and Satan: Paradise Lost, by Milton.
3. Two men who are polar opposites: The Odd Couple.
4. A man and a woman in a classic love triangle: Jules and Jim by Francois Truffaut.

I could go on. I'm sure you can add some books or movies to the list.

No back story in the rivalry. The conflict should start in the opening scene. Remember, these two characters are rivals, competitors, challenging each other on a personal level. It's always a good idea to ask yourself when developing characters: "What's at stake?" What matters to these two characters? Does one want a clean house while the other wants to relax and watch football while drinking a beer? Does one want to prove they can shoot a gun with better precision than the other? Does one want the death of the other at any cost?

In act one; the antagonist gets the upper hand. Think Ben Hur and how he became a slave by a Roman who was his childhood friend. Act two; the protagonist is elevated once again so that these two characters are equal. The antagonist is aware of this, which brings added tension. Act three; they meet and one of them wins the day.

Some of you have noticed that many of these plots are included in books that seem to have different plots for the major story. That is true. I think the best books have strong, three dimensional characters along with plots that are woven together for the purpose of tension, action, goals, etc.

Once again, the book, 20 Master Plots and how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias, is a much more in depth study of this plot. I strongly recommend that you invest in it. I know I have learned a lot just by reading the different plots for these Monday post.

(Just so you know Colorado State Law passed a taxation measure for online sales. Amazon doesn't allow anyone in Colorado to earn money with book promotions. Therefore, my recommendation of this book is not monetarily motivated).

Next week, the master plot is: Underdog.                                            

Are you going to write a rivalry plot?



Nas Dean said...

Hi Nancy,

Great post. I like these craft posts of yours. I get to learn so much by this. Thanks.

Joanne said...

I haven't written a rivalry plot, but it seems like it would be a fun one to pen, lots of great human nature involved. And like you, I prefer rivalries on the page rather than in my life!

N. R. Williams said...

I'm glad you enjoy them Nas.

I haven't written one either Joanne.

Thank you both for stopping by.

Jules said...

Dang, now you know about Jim too! Currently there is a rivalry going on in my yard between rain, grass and the mower. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Haven't written a rivalry story yet.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've used rivalry as a sub-plot, but never the main plot.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Like Diane, I often use rivalry in my sub-plots, but I've never had this as the main framework. Interesting idea I'll keep in mind.

David Powers King said...

Great thoughts on rivalry! I've touched on it some, but I have yet to get fully into it.

I gave you a shout-out on my blog :)

alexia said...

Great post! It's nice you are doing a series!

N. R. Williams said...

You always make me laugh Jules, thank you.

I haven't done that either Alex.

Me too L. Diane.

I agree Marsha.

Thanks David, I'll be stopping by.

Thank you Alexia.

And a big thank you to all of you for coming by and leaving a comment.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Another good one!

LTM said...

yes yes yes! In fact I've already done it. The classic love triangle. Oh, and sort of god and satan, except my MC is the noble one who goes up against a very sinister fellow...

good stuff~ :o) <3

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Holly.

That sounds like a must read, LTM.

Thank you both for dropping by.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Don't you get annoyed when govt sticks its nose in minutia like bloggers talking about books they like? Almost makes you understand the Tea Partiers. said...

This was a helpful post. I'm not sure why I always found the Odd Couple highly annoying. Maybe they are just too opposite.
Be well.

N. R. Williams said...

I don't get your comment Kay, but it's early.

I only caught a couple episodes of that show Robyn.

Thank you both for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

This is cool. I don't know if I've ever done a rivalry plot with my own characters, though I can think of some great rivalries that I've worked with from fandom. (Liz Parker and Tess Harding, say?)

I usually don't think of master plots like this, I often have a plot that flows organically from my characters or world setting.

Thanks for sharing!

N. R. Williams said...

Nice to meet you Kel, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad you liked the post.